This week on Senior Voices, Barbara Hayden recalls growing up on the West Side of Dayton in the 1950s and 60s. Barbara was one of six children, and while they lived and went to school in Dayton, every summer, their parents dropped them off in a small Southern town where both of Hayden’s grandmothers lived. She shared her story with Dayton Metro Library volunteer Susan Brenner.
Barbara Hayden (BH): I never knew my grandfathers, but I knew my grandmothers. They lived in Winchester, Tennessee. Mt grandmothers lived next door to each
Susan Brenner (SB): Did you go and visit every summer?
BH: Every summer
SB: What’d you do for fun?
BH: Oh, we just played and stacked wood and… And we thought that was fun! Grandmother had a grapevine, so we’d pick grapes for her, so she could can jellies and things. It was comforting, and we did most things around food. And it always amazed me as I got older how they could cook on those wood burning stoves, not be able to gauge heat or anything, and not burn up anything. It was just amazing to me after I grew up and realized what was going on.
SB: Did you help your grandmothers make food or bake?
BH: Not so much that. I think they didn’t want us around that wood burning stoves and getting burnt or whatever. So, we’d go and get the eggs from under the chickens and that kind of stuff. We always thought that was fun. And I had cousins down there. We could kind of walk every place and you didn’t have to worry about anything.
SB: And you were there all summer?
BH: The whole summer. My parents took us there probably a week or two after school was out, and they picked us up, maybe a week before school started. And now I understand that it kind of gave them a break. Having six children, they had a break from us, and you need a break from your children when you have that many.
My father did not allow us to work while we were going to school. He said our jobs were to go to school; his job was to take care of us. Now, my brother did have a paper route, so we would kind of help him, just for the fun of it.
And I got married straight out of high school. I graduated 1964, married 65, had a baby in 66.
SB: What have you noticed about changes in Dayton over the years that you’ve lived here?
BH: I don’t know how to say this… The White Flight to the suburbs, and that just destroys the city. Because if you look at Dayton, all of our culture is downtown: The Victoria, the Schuster, the Dayton Art Institute, Memorial Hall, everything. And then people are acting like they’re afraid to come to the city of Dayton. It’s just ridiculous. It’s like things don’t happen in the suburbs, but they do.
SB: So, has your neighborhood changed also?
BH: Yes. When I was growing up, you had your communities, and your community had a church, a grocery store, a dry cleaners, a beauty shop, and a barber shop. You had everything within your community that you could walk to. And women in back those days, like my mother, she did not drive, but she didn’t have to worry about it because everything was in walking distance, and if it wasn’t, the dry cleaners would come and pick up your dry cleaning, and deliver it back to you. We had a milkman. The Fuller Brush man. Everybody came to you.
Your insurance man even came! We thought that was something, every Saturday morning for him to come. This insurance policy. You’d give him a quarter. He’d sign and date and everything, and you’d hang it back up. You know…
Life was simpler, and I think with life being simpler, it was a good life for us—for children.
This interview was edited by Community Voices producer Jason Reynolds. Senior Voices is a collaboration between the Dayton Metro Library, Rebuilding Together Dayton, and WYSO. This series is made possible through the generous support of the Del Mar Healthcare Fund of the Dayton Foundation.